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Was it worth it? An empirical analysis of over-education among PhD recipients in Italy

Giuseppe Lucio Gaeta (Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Naples L’Orientale, Naples, Italy.)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to provide an empirical examination of factors associated with over-education among PhD graduates in Italy.


The investigation is based on recently released data collected by the Italian National Institute of Statistics by means of interviews with a large sample of PhD recipients, carried out a few years after they obtained their PhD degree. The author measured the mismatch between the current job and previous PhD studies using two direct subjective evaluations of over-education, which distinguish between the usefulness of the PhD title to get the current job position and to perform the current work activities. Even if the incidence of over-education varies according to the measurement applied, the author found that it is highly widespread among PhD recipients. The econometric analyses are aimed at identifying factors associated with over-education and are based on the standard probit model and the bivariate probit model with sample selection which allows to control for self selection into employment.


The results show that over-education is significantly correlated with: first, a number of PhD-related variables, such as the scientific field of study, having attended courses or visiting periods abroad; second, some job-related characteristics, such as working in the academia or being mainly involved in research-related activities; third, the channel of access to the job; and fourth, residential location.


This paper contributes to the literature focusing on job-education mismatch by providing, to the best of the author’s knowledge, the first empirical analysis of over-education among PhD recipients in Italy; moreover, it provides some useful insights to evaluate the professional doctoral graduates in Italy.



Gaeta, G.L. (2015), "Was it worth it? An empirical analysis of over-education among PhD recipients in Italy", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 222-238.



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